THE Supreme Court ruling compelling Standard Chartered Bank to pay back a client’s funds which was garnished from its coffers by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe could open floodgates from companies and individuals whose Zimbabwe dollar accounts were written off following the introduction of the multi-currency regime in 2009.
In separate interviews, Zimbabweans across the country felt that the Supreme Court ruling vis-à-vis the Zimbabwe dollar, should apply to the moribund local currency which was written off after the introduction of the multi-currency regime in the country.
A Bulawayo resident, Urita Magaya, said: “Ordinary people were also affected by the transition from using Zimbabwe dollars to United States dollars and just like companies they lost their money overnight.
I want to believe the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court ordering Standard Chartered Bank to pay back clients’ funds could be an opening to a new chapter where even ordinary citizens who lost their money during that period might be paid back.
“I would expect all banks to pay, if StanChart is made to pay back. Several banks owed both companies and individuals money in Zimbabwe dollars. I consider myself a layperson in such matters, but looking at the country’s economy, the whole issue raises the question: Do the banks have the capacity to pay, and what impact will this have on the country’s financial reserves? I will follow the issue with great interest.”
Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya, however, said once a Supreme Court ruling was made the principle behind the ruling then needed to be studied, adding all banks now had an obligation to pay whatever amounts depositors had put in the banks during the Zimbabwe dollar era in its US dollar equivalent.
“The ruling provides a chance for Zimbabweans to now approach the courts and demand their money on the basis of that principle. As legislators, we also need to take this issue up with the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning and ask him how he interprets this Supreme Court ruling, as well as what implementation mechanisms he will put in place so that every depositor, whether companies or individuals, benefit,” Chikwinya said.
Zimbabwe National Students’ Union spokesperson Zachariah Mushawatu said the ruling by the Supreme Court clearly stated that banks had to pay the depositor the equivalent of the amount deposited in the account upon demand.
“It is clear from this ruling that all depositors who lost their money during the transition from Zimbabwean to US dollars — whether they are companies or individuals — have a right to be given the equivalent of the amount they had in their banks during the dollarisation period. The court ruling can actually be cited by private citizens in their quest to regain the amounts lost to them during the height of Zimbabwe’s man-made economic crisis,” Mushawatu said.
ICT specialist Talent Mbedzi said: “Legal tender issues of people losing money in banks after introduction of the US dollar currency cannot be wiped out just as the Ndebele say “icala kaliboli” (a crime can never be swept under the carpet). The Supreme Court ruling has set a very good precedent whose effects run deeper into the whole financial sector and government.
“Ultimately, the issue goes back to the Reserve Bank and the economy. If, for some reason, for example, liquidity, our Zimbabwe dollars cannot be reinstated to bankers in US dollars, then a vehicle should be created where each lost Zimbabwean dollar represents redeemable shares in government-owned companies like Mbada Diamonds. We can then access our money when the conditions are right. We also need to know what happened to the value on our Zimbabwean dollar investments in unit trusts, insurance premiums and others.”